About Me

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I LOVE God, I have been married for 5 years to a wonderful woman, I am a recent college graduate of Lakeland college with a degree in Religious Studies,I have currently foregone going to Seminary, but feel called to work with teens and young adults and do so at my local church, Vineyard CC, in Grafton, WI.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

AlLoW me to be VuLnEraBlE

This week has been a hell of a week. It has been a long time since I have been down this road. While, I know I go in my arks of highs and lows I don’t seem to be able to find that peace that I can typically grab onto. I was thinking about the last time I felt some true peace, the last time someone said you are on the right track or that is a good fit for you. The truth is in ministry I don’t think I have ever really had someone say that is right up your alley, I have had things fall into place where it would be hard for me to deny that that was where God wanted me to be. That being said there was a time where my talents meshed with what I was doing, I had peace, and people let me know I was good at it. Ironically, I consider it the first step in the direction towards ministry, that step was an attempt at becoming a massage therapist.

I left massage therapy for several reasons, the biggest was I injured myself and was unable to complete my hands on classes leaving me 2 major classes short of my certificate. However, there were other reasons as well. The biggest of those is that I did not live for myself. I left my decisions be dictated by the person I thought I was in love with. I gave everything to that person from finances to dreams, I gave everything openly and freely and hoped upon hope I would get the same in return, but I didn’t. It was, yet again, another failed relationship and like the relationship or because of it, a failed career attempt.

I wasn’t the same after that. I started fading away from the peaceful, calm, fun loving person who would have become a massage therapist. I started making choices out of vengeance for the lack of love that was shown me. I acted out like a five year old wanting their parents attention and upon being ignored whips their penis out on the table and pees all over dinner. Still, I was unable to leave that relationship; I had invested everything there and did not want to be labeled a failure. Likewise, I was a wuss and did not want to be the one doing the break up, I just could not bring myself to be the one to break her heart, even though mine was crushed to the point I was not sure I still had one. So what went wrong?

I am sure we all have had these types of relationships. We invest everything we have from goals, to money, to other unnamed resources only to find we leave empty handed, vacant, empty.

See the problem is that humans are unreliable and when we open ourselves up in such a manner we allow ourselves to become vulnerable and vulnerability is a dangerous and wonderful thing. Vulnerability allows us to be our best, while at the same time if someone takes advantage of that vulnerability it can turn us into our worst. We lose ourselves in the vacant-ness left by the destroyed transaction, it’s like getting to your car, far from the store, and discovering that the cashier short changed you. The retaliation isn’t always as simple as going back to the store and getting your appropriate change back because sometimes the store is in on the bamboozling and they refuse to appropriately compensate you for all your trouble, so you find the cashier’s car and key it, vandalize the store, and torch the bitch! Natural reaction, right . . . right.

While many of us may have felt this way, thought about doing it, or maybe even planned it, the reality of acting out in such a way is just unrealistic. We typically take the faulty transaction at face value and allow it to kill our spirit, becoming disenchanted with the whole system, until a time where some store or cashier or both make your trip so worth your time that you forget your hurt and are made whole in ways you did not know you were lacking. Consequently, the whole time between these transactions are spent shopping, not because we enjoy the experience, but because we have no choice. We need things that only a store can provide. Unfortunately, this is the same way in which we love, in some transactional manner, but is this the way we should love, is that true vulnerability?

This same question was asked by my friend and recent travel partner Pat L. Green in his recent blog, which can be found  here/. This post sparked so many thoughts in me, I just needed to write them down, not to jump on his band wagon, but because I don’t think I have any other discourse but to discuss them through the written word and because this is actually a written bitch slap that I needed to get me out of the funk that I have been in this week.

Let me start my thoughts by saying, I believe that even if it is unintentional, all love and vulnerability is an inherent transaction. Our intent may not be to get something particular out of it, but when we allow ourselves to love and be vulnerable we are depositing parts of ourselves into another. We are initiating an action and Newton stated in his first law of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While the return that we get may not be equal to what we give, we still have initiated that action. Now, how we respond to being short changed is going to determine if our action is truly love for loves sake, if we try to torch the store because we were bamboozled, well, that is the reaction of someone who had expectations going into the transaction. However, if we can walk away from such a transaction without malice because of the slight, any joy we receive, I believe, is genuine and a sign that we loved for loves sake alone. After all, when God first created us, God provided all the goodies in the garden, not because we loved God, but because God loved us and when we disobeyed God, they continued to provide for us, despite our short changing them. When we love like God loves us, in this organic transaction, void of any preconceived expectations, loving for loves sake, reconciliation takes place between those whom are being vulnerable to each other.

One thing I have learned from studying the bible and getting my degree is that God does not just try to reconcile us to God, but God also tries to bring us into a reconciled state with each other. In that vein I would like to bring my favorite song writers, Linkin Park, into this discussion because while their more current stuff has direct hymn like qualities calling directly out to God, their original works are a call out to each of us for this same reconciliation with each other that we are speaking about. The song that I thought would fit best for our discussion is “A Place For My Head.”

"A Place For My Head"

I watch how the moon sits in the sky in the dark night
Shining with the light from the sun
The sun doesn't give light to the moon assuming
The moon’s going to owe it one
It makes me think of how you act to me
You do favors and then rapidly
You just turn around and start asking me
about things that you want back from me

[Chorus (x2):]
I’m sick of the tension, sick of the hunger
Sick of you acting like I owe you this
Find another place, to feed your greed -
While I find a place to rest

I want to be in another place
I hate when you say you don’t understand
(You’ll see it's not meant to be)
I want to be in the energy, not with the enemy
A place for my head
Maybe someday I’ll be just like you
and step on people like you do and
Run away the people I thought I knew
I remember back then who you were
You used to be calm, used to be strong
Used to be generous but you should’ve known
That you’d wear out your welcome
now you see how quiet it is, all alone

[Chorus (x2)]

Go away
You try to take the best of me

I want to be in another place
I hate when you say you don't understand
(You'll see it's not meant to be)
I want to be in the energy, not with the enemy
A place for my head

Shut up....what!

[Chorus (x2)] 

As you can see, right off the bat they are talking about this transactional nature of our relationships. They use the sun and the moon as the example of the way that we should love each other. In this case the sun loves the moon in a way that allows the sun to share its light with the moon with complete disregard for what the moon is going to do for the sun in the future. Consequently, they are fixed bodies and really can’t “do” anything for each other, but hey its poetic license! The remainder of the song is a call out to a particular person to reconcile their greedy ways, taking everyone’s love for granted expecting more and more out of the people around them and even “loving” someone just so that they can get something in return. Isn’t that what we have been talking about? Although the song makes my point from the negative perspective, scolding vs. warning, the particular audience; the song speaks directly to the heart of the issue and that is for love to be genuine it needs to come from a place of vulnerability, where all expectations of the other are cast aside, allowing for an organic transaction where all parties involved get what they need from the relationship, not what they wanted.

Allow me to end by bringing this full circle and explain why I love the fact that God talks to us from every imaginable place possible. As I said at the beginning, this week has been hell, but I did not elaborate, allow me to be vulnerable and explain why. This week has consisted of me arguing with my wife for reasons that just don’t make sense, a sick dog, a large vet bill, with no money to pay it, and the foreboding feeling that I was handling this all on my own, despite friends who have been checking on me and praying for me even though only a hand full have actually met me in person and a wife who loves me with the firey passion of a thousand suns. With the written bitch slap that Pat’s blog provided I have come to realize that my despair comes from an inorganic transaction(s), one(s) with expectations and a guarded heart, void of the vulnerability required to love as completely as I am capable. While not everything is as cut and dry as this and there are complexities that I am aware of that involve psychology and therapy sessions, I am comfortable saying that this week would have been a lot better if I just loved like I used to, with complete abandon.

I hope that this blog is for you what it needs to be, I pray that the Holy Spirit speaks to you like it did to me through Pat and Linkin Park. For my wife and friends I am sorry for this week and I LOVE you all very much, even if my expectations get in the way some times, and for those moments, I am so very sorry.

As always Peace and many blessings!

Friday, October 7, 2011

SwEet JeSus WalKing on the WateR

I thought I would post my sermon for the jail house service this sunday. I am very excited to do this. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as i will enjoy presenting it.

My name is Steven Carter and I am a recent graduate of Lakeland College with a degree in religious studies. This has been no small feat for me; after all I have only had to go to 4 colleges and three different degrees before finally getting a diploma. I have never really been a bad student, but there are things that I never thought I was ever going to be good at, like reading at a normal speed or writing grammatically correct, so with these assumptions I did not pursue possible careers that depended on me mastering those skills. As a result I went to two different schools pursuing a degree in meteorology and when I failed to succeed, where all evidence said I should have, I decided to give up pursuit and attended a third school to try a more relaxed field of study, wanting to attain a certificate in massage therapy.

Massage therapy was not a horrible fit for me. I enjoyed the human interaction and getting to help people, make a difference in their lives. That being said fate had a different plan and I became injured, causing me to be unable to finish my last two classes and letting another degree slip through my fingers.

At this point I had no idea what to do with my life, I lacked direction and focus. I had to make money to survive, but nothing was overly satisfying and I did not know where to turn for help. I had faith in God, but only recently started going back to church and was not planted anywhere that I trusted to help me answer these life questions. All I knew was that I wanted to help people, but that was too general, I needed something to focus on, so I turned outward to God asking the great creator what they wanted from me. Not expecting an audible answer, hearing become a minister shocked me and caused me to question my sanity. However, I will never forget that word: “minister”

With my life being a mess there was no way that God actually wanted me to become a minister, so I fought against the call. I was stubborn; God couldn’t be calling me to that, but God had to have some plan for me otherwise how was life going to get any better, so I continued to ask, with the same response coming every time. Finally, I couldn’t ignore it anymore, the more I thought about the call that God was giving to me the more it felt right. I started to look at all the other people God had called and saw that they were not unlike me and a pattern began to form, a pattern that tracks all the way into the new testament and through to some of the most famous saints. We all have a problem believing that God has enough faith in us to call us into ministry, but God calls everyone into God’s service because God has faith in all of us. Let us take a look at probably one of the more well know bible passages in the new testament and see what it has to tell us about God’s faith in us.

Insert Mathew 14:22-33

So, who did Peter lose faith in?

I recently had the opportunity to read Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell. In this very engaging book Rob asks the same question. To answer the question he puts it into the context of the time that the event takes place.

See in the Jewish community of that time life revolves around the Torah. The Torah is the first 5 books of the Old testament and learning it and understanding were pivotal, so most children would start school around the age of 6 and spend the next four years, learning the Torah. The best students would continue on to the second level of school, those who lacked an aptitude left school and learned the family trade

                Those that continued on went on to memorizing the remainder of the old testament and by 13 they would have all 39 books memorized. They would not only memorize but they would also study the art of questioning and the oral traditions surrounding the texts. They wanted to see if the student knew it, understood it, and wrestled with it. They were not interested in regurgitation, but progression of the thought, taking it one step further then the Rabbi had before them.

                By the end of the second school around the age of 14 or 15 only the best of the best were still studying with the Rabbi. The rest of the students had reverted to learning the family trade and starting families of their own.

                At this time the student would petition the Rabbi for continued education. The Rabbi wanted to know if this kid could do what he did, so he would grill the student to make sure. The rabbi wanted to know if they were able to enter thunder-dome and come out the other end, looking a lot like the Rabbi. If the rabbi thought they had what it took they would say:

                COME FOLLOW ME

So, if we rewind from our previous story to when the disciples are actually called to become disciples we see that Jesus is calling students who were already rejected by other Rabbis. They were not deemed worthy to learn to be like the rabbis in their towns. Then along comes Jesus, God incarnate, calling the rejects to become like Him. God is calling them to do what he did. He had faith in these rejects, he saw what they could become.

So, what did Peter lose faith in? Peter lost faith in God’s faith in him. He suddenly began to doubt his ability to be like Jesus, there by doubting  God’s faith in him.

You see God loves all of us and all we have to do is answer the call and believe that we are not insane, but that God is REALLY calling us to follow him, we have only to believe that God believes in us.

Do you believe that God believes in you?